What Does a Sewer Belly or Broken Sewer Look Like?

May 1, 2020

It is common for a plumber to tell the homeowner that their sewer is backing up for a number of reasons. The most common terms that are thrown around include a sewer back pitch, sewer belly or a broken sewer. Most homeowners never get a true understanding of what this means or what it actually looks like.

We feel it is important for homeowners to understand their sewer problems especially if you are going to spend thousands of dollars for a resolution.

Back-pitched sewer

A sewer line is supposed to run on gravity with the pipe starting at the house and angle downward towards the city sewer. This allows the sewer to flow on pitch which is also regulated as it is possible for too much pitch. The NYC DEP plumbing code requites the licensed plumber to follow specific guidelines to avoid too much or too little pitch.

When dealing with a back pitched sewer the pipe inside of the house is deeper than the city sewer and the sewage must go uphill or runs flat before it reaches the sewer. A scenario like this will lead to sewer backups and can only be resolved if the sewer line is replaced in full with proper pitch.

Sewer line belly

This refers to when one section of the sewer line has a dip and the sewage goes downwards for a short amount of time before it reaches a section of the sewer that is flowing on gravity with proper pitch. The problem with a belly is that things may get stuck in the sunken section of the pipe which will ultimately cause a backup in the house.

In some cases a belly can be repaired with a replacement of one section however, there is a chance that another section of piping may have problems in the future and you should always consider replacing the entire sewer line at once.

Broken sewer

This is exactly what it sounds like however it may not look like what you think. If the sewer is broken it does not mean that one section of pipe is completely disjointed from the next. As displayed in the video you can see the bottom of one section of pipe is broken up and crumbling, the video footage at 22′ shows pieces of the pipe that are broken and this is exactly where the sewage would begin to back up.

There are many other variables and facts to consider when dealing with a backed up sewer line and it is important to consult with a licensed plumber on all of the small details before making any formal decisions.